Sunday, November 30, 2008

Peter Pan is Actually Very Sketchy

Let's ignore the blatant cultural insensitivity towards the Native American nations (one of the songs is called "ugah wuguh wig-wam." Found in the themes of this children's classic are such gems as;

Kidnapping: Both at the end and the beginning of the play, Peter Pan sneaks into a private home and makes off with children. The pirates also kidnap a large group of children with intent to make them walk the plank. However, as readers of the blog know, that was historically inaccurate. They would have tied them to a cannon and whipped them.

Murder: The Indians and Pirates make a large show of running around fighting and scaring each other off, all in good fun. Then at the end of the play, Peter begins actually murdering the pirates. This is response to the pirates aforementioned premeditated murder of all the small children. Captain Hook is forced into death by being eaten.

Really Creepy Sexual Undertones: I don't really even need to get into this one. Just think about it as an adult - Wendy comes to Neverland to be the Lost Boy's "mother," and spends the whole time in a nightdress around a man she's obviously attracted to, whom also regards her as his "mother." Let's move on.

Drug Use: Peter and Tiger Lily smokum peace pipe. 'Nuff said.

Wait, let's take a deeper look here. Don't stop at Peter Pan, let's examine some of the other residents of Fabletown:

Snow White: Poisoning, strangulation, murder, attempted murder, midget porn
Cinderella: Self-mutilation, slavery
Jack & The Beanstalk: Forced entry, burglary, murder
Little Red Riding Hood: Little old lady eaten to death, cruelty to animals
Puss n' Boots: Rampant lying
Goldilocks: Forced entry, burglary, terrible cooking
The Pied Piper of Hamelin: Kidnapping, cruelty to animals, mass infanticide
The Hunchback of Notre Dame: Kidnapping, murder, suicide, blasphemy
Rapunzel: Unlawful imprisonment
Sleeping Beauty: Unwarranted insult towards the narcoleptic community

It's a good thing kids don't read anymore.

Books I Didn't Read This Year

. . . or more accurately books I didn't finish this year. Somehow this year I was able to greatly dial down the amount of (non-sports) tv I watched (I have watched enough Scrubs for a lifetime) and read a lot more than I ever have. But while I have read a lot more than any year in the past, a number of books went unfinished for one reason or another. These are all the books that I actually started and have not finished:


Love in the Time Of Cholera
This was simply a case of running out of renewals for this at the library, as it was the last in a stack of books I had checked out at the time. I have tried to dial down the number of books I have checked out, but it is never easy. That said, the stretch I read did not quite grab me as much as I would have hoped. I still will give this a second chance at some point, probably.
Chances of Finishing it Someday: 55%

Norwegian Wood (Or maybe something else by Haruki Murakami)
I think it was Norwegian Wood, it could have been something else by him. Either way, this was a similar situation as above, I just ran out of time. I like Murakami a lot though.
Chances of Finishing it Someday: 70%


The (Really Dull) Adventures of Augie March
Oh God, I got halfway though and I just couldn't continue. The protagonist had nothing compelling going for him and Bellows had a gift for strangling a sentence. I gave it my best, but this was quite unenjoyable.
Chances of Finishing it Someday: 15%


The Best American Non-Required Reading 2007
One of those writing collections where you can read in bits, and that was my situation. I read a chunk of it and then other things come up and I haven't gotten back to this yet.
Chances of Finishing it Someday: 60%


Global Capitalism: Its Fall And Rise in the 20th Century
I still have this in the currently reading and have gotten through a lot of the "gold standard era" pile but a number of books have snuck by it for the time being. It's really quite interesting and I will finish it at some point.
Chances of Finishing it Someday: 75%

I Read the News Today, Oh Boy (Part 2)

Today's front page headlines in The Washington Post -

"Players Gamble on Honesty, Security of Internet Betting"
"Ruthless Attackers, Desperate Victims"
"U.S. 'Not Getting What We Pay For"
"Joint Chiefs Chairman 'Very Positive' After Meeting With Obama"
and finally -
"Acorn Watchers Wonder What Happened to Crop"

Really?

So in addition to the fact that a story about internet gambling (which is very well written) gets full on, above-the-fold priority and at least twice as much page length as an article full of first person accounts of being held hostage at the Taj Hotel in Mumbai - the acorn watchers are front page news? I'm not saying it's not interesting, or a human interest story (or really a squirrel interest story) but skimming over the article the points that keep being presented are "We don't know why, and really, not a big deal." The two actual points of fact - less acorns this year, squirrels feeling the shortage. Well, aren't we all?

Other articles that didn't make the front page:
- A profile on Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal who some are already calling 'The Republican Obama.' (Given his position being anti-abortion without exception, anti stem-cell research, and pro limited creationism being taught in public schools, lets really hope not.)
- An article on how Japan's population has shrunk for 27 consecutive years and that soon crime commited by those over the age of 65 will outnumber all other age brackets.
- The increasing risk of all out war between Pakistan and India should India move on it's accusations of Pakistani influence and involvement in the Mumbai attacks.

But hey, there's a really cute picture of a squirrel, that's gotta count for something.

Who was asleep at that wheel?

I Have Been to the Promised Land...and it is VERY Real.

Friends, Romans, people who read and probably post on this blog, lend me your ears. For I have climbed the mountaintop, I have made my pilgrimage, I have seen the glory, and it shines brighter than you could have ever imagined. I'm talking of course, about Piratz Tavern of Silver Spring, Maryland. Ho-lee shit.

When Jason called to tell me that the original bar we were going to was too crowded, and that I should meet him across the street at the "Pirate Bar," I initially thought, "well, I guess it's some bar or nightclub with a pirate theme. Sounds interesting."

But as it turned out, "theme" would be something of an understatement. There are two things you immediately notice about Piratz Tavern (what's with the "z?") when you walk in. First of all, the walls are covered in pirate signs and memorabilia, I'm talking treasure maps, skulls and crossbones, there's even this little pirate head that's lit up by the bar that keeps opening and closing it's mouth. The second thing you notice is the pirates. Now, understand something. I'm not talking about just one or two pirates. I'm talking about five to seven full costumed, fully armed, fully mother's basement living, pirates. When I first sat down, most of them were outside. I commented to Andy that I didn't think I was on planet earth anymore, when he pointed me outside. "Look dude, there's real pirates!"

And there they were. Standing right in the shadow of a massive Silver Spring parking structure. Yaaar!


No. Way.


So the waitress comes over-oh-excuse me, the "Wench" comes over (no joke, this is how she introduced herself, "Wench Jenny," I think), decked out in full on wench clothes with a five dollar bill wedged between her protruding cleavage. She takes our order, comes back, and promptly spills the cider Andy ordered on the table. Wenches, right? Sheesh. No big deal, she brings over another one. Well, no sooner has she done that, than we are approached by one of the pirates, a big guy with long blonde hair. Actually could have been a pirate, had he been around back in the day.

"Which one of you had the cider?"

Andy tells the pirate.

"Well, you got me a free one! Thanks! Here's to you!"

He raises his glass and toasts Andy. Jason tries to get in a "L'Chaim." I try to quiet him down-pirates HATE Jews. It's a fact.

So Jason goes to look at Andy's cider, and this pirate pulls a DAGGER and slams it down on the table. "Nobody touches this man's cider!"

WHAT. THE. FUCK.

Well, things can't get any weirder now, right? We get in some discussion with the wench about how she should come dump more drinks on Andy, or better yet, make him walk the plank. BIG mistake. She gets defensive, telling us that there is no proof that pirates ever made anyone walk the plank. In fact, she says, that was the Royal Navy. "Oh, well, we like them then!" Oh, great move Andy, tell the "Pirates" we like the navy. Come on. That's just rude.

So she brings this other pirate over, this guy for SURE doesn't wash his hands after masturbating, and now he's telling us that pirates never made anyone walk the plank.

"But, they did use Cannon Flogging! Do you know want to know what that is? HAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHA!"

Man, this dude had the loudest laugh ever. And Andy got most of it right in his face.

"That is when they tie you to the cannon, fire it, and whip you! So you get the burning of the cannon, AND the burning of the whip! HAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAH!"

Man. That is hilarious. And, somehow, actually happening.

Needless to say, this guy pulled his dagger on us at some point too, and I'm pretty sure his was real. It was dark, so I could be wrong, but that thing looked like a real dagger. After that, I was nervous that if I stayed any longer my head might literally explode, so we headed out.

Piratz Tavern is one of those places you never plan to go to. You just somehow end up there, more often then not, with Jason Schlafstein. As the business card I took says, "Escape the Ordinary-experience unique food, drink, & adventure." Adventure. Yep, I couldn't have said it better myself.

I Read the News Today, Oh Boy

I was watching the news at work on Friday morning. They were reporting on the situation in Mumbai, and at the time were just confirming the deaths of everyone in the Chabad center, and the man from Virginia and his 13 year old daughter. A death toll of over 150 (and probably a good deal more) lost to a wave of indiscriminate bullets and grenades; people being held hostage in places and symbols of refuge like hotels, train stations, and community centers.

And then the very next story was about a woman being trampled to death here in America at a Black Friday sale.

And you mean to tell me that while people a world away are being callously and viciously murdered by terrorists filled with fear, hate, and an active disregard for human life, here at home people are still dying on that same day because we can't stand in a fucking line?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Stand For Something

How many of us identify ourselves as Republicans? How many think that we're Democrats? Whom amongst those reading this blog is an Independant, Libertarian, or member of the Green Party? How do we let that self-identification shape our opinions regarding those who are of a separate affiliation?

During the last election, the Republicans invoked the name of Ronald Reagan over and over again. He was a revered figure, the heart of what modern Republicanism was supposed to be. Reagan, as you may remember, presided over massive economic downturns, deregulation, tax cuts for the wealthy, covert dealings with hostile foreign powers, along with healthy upswings in violent crime and drug use. He also waged a rhetorical war against an already-collapsing world power. Replace "Tear down this wall" with "Fuck Saddam, we're taking him out," and you can see that the GOP is still proud of the model Reagan established. For my part, it brought to mind what I thought was a good question. Abraham Lincoln was a Republican, why don't they invoke his name instead? The answer was eye-opening.

Abraham Lincoln as a Republican in his time would be a Democrat today. The ideas that the party preaches change as shift as one ideology becomes more popular with the voters. What they put out as firm foundations that they universally support are little more than platforms to help usher them into office where they can pursue their own agendas.

John McCain was as good a candidate as we've seen for the Presidency in decades. Yet in a country increasingly infuriated with the actions of the party in power, few were willing to even give him a chance. Barack Obama was villified to a ridiculous degree (one conservative columnist compared him to Hitler!) by merit of his being the Democratic nominee. Barely anyone in the country even knows the opinions of Bob Barr or Ron Paul, because we've been conditioned to believe 3rd party candidates have no chance to win, so their viewpoints don't matter.

What I'm driving at is that we have, by and large, come to represent beliefs in a flawed party system rather than standing on any actual belief. Were I to identify with a political party simply based on ideal, I would call myself a Republican. I believe in a small government. I support a free market economy. I believe in the 2nd Amendment. I don't support other beliefs of the party that are based on religious rather than social guidelines, but at the core, their ideals are in line with mine. It has been quite some time, however, since the GOP was able to practice what it preached.

The deregulation of the economy was supposed to provide greater opportunity for American citizens to advance based on their own merit. What was never imposed, however, were any restrictions which kept those who accumulated great wealth from holding down others who wanted to do the same. The belief in small government burgeoned out of control as the administration became increasingly bureaucratic. The right to bear arms was turned into little more than a "with us/against us" point, used to imply every Democrat in the nation had no other agenda than to completely repeal one of the foundations of our Bill of Rights. The people behind the ideas no longer cared about what they were saying. It only mattered insofar as it would get them in office.

I am calling upon the American public and the future political leaders which will rise from it to reverse this trend. It is time for us as individuals to decide what it is we really believe in. Being against something is not the same as standing for something else. Take a side. Do research. Know what you're talking about and be informed. Stand for something.

The most important thing we as voters can do is keep ourselves informed on the issues. Don't support a candidate or attack his opponent simply because they wear a red tie or a blue one. Find out what they really do. Research their records, look at their public statements, find out what the office they're running for is actually capable of. Never believe word-of-mouth. Never try to bend facts or rumors to support theories you already hold. Approach the world with an open mind and a healthy dose of skepticism. Sound like a lot of work? It is. But if we want to complain about the job the government does, we should accept our part of the responsibility for putting them there.

With the amount of information availble to us now, there is no reason we can't all be reasonably informed about our representatives. If you seriously have a position you believe in, then be willing to do the work it takes to stand up for it. Nothing will change because of people who sit back talking about an idea rather than acting on it. And if it really seems like too much of a bother, then take a good hard look at why you believe in something in the first place.


Check out more of David Pratt at http://prattforpresident.blogspot.com

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Just Remember, 16 Will Get You 20 *Clink*

I was at the Quarry House (great hang-out bar in Silver Spring on the corner of Georgia and Bonifant) the other night with some friends when it came up that one of them (a 23 year old girl) was actively searching for a 15 year old boy to hook up with. To which I responded with somewhere between 20 to 37 "NO"s. Aside from the fact that no 15 year old boy's first sexual experience should be with this particular girl - it would be like a high school freshman taking an advanced class in special topics at grad school, believe me - there's also the fact that no one can convince me that someone before the age of high school and someone after college (whether they've both gone to school or not) are on the same emotional/maturation planes. The amount of development we go through as people, both physically and societally, during those years are some of the most fundamental changes and growth a person goes through - and while most people may remain effectively the same at their core after, no one I know is the same person from that point in their lives to now.

And seriously - this girl would eat that poor kid alive and leave him limping along with utterly terrifying expectations for the next one. You've got to be battle tested and ready for this one, I ga-ron-tee.

All of which reminded me of New Mexico.

I was living in a house in Taos, NM working on a paper for class when we get a call at 2AM from this kid Travis, a former roommate of ours now living on the outskirts of town. Travis is crying and screaming - he just broke his arm. So me and one of my housemates - RJ - get in our friend's car and drive off to go get him to the hospital, because we're the only two people willing to go.

It's mid-way through the ride when I find out RJ is drunk, and I only have a learner's permit.
Fantastic.

We get to his place and his wrist is stuck out and crooked like a praying mantis - it was pretty brutal. But he's not alone. It turns out, he had a 14 year old townie over that he was trying to get drunk and fuck (which honestly wouldn't have been that hard, given townies in Taos NM). Realize, please, that I'm already in college at this point, and Travis is my age. Well the kid lives in what can best be described as a converted greenhouse and he got the bright idea that the best way to seduce this FOURTEEN YEAR OLD GIRL was to try some sort of gymnastics move off the wooden beams hanging from his ceiling to impress her (seriously? he didn't have any magic tricks? or juggling? Or I don't know - a girl a little bit further past puberty?). So of course he breaks his arm.

He is wailing and screaming as the four of us make our way to the hospital.
ROLL CALL!
TRAVIS - Crying.
RJ - Drunk and Driving.
GIRL - 14.
ME - Terrified.

We get there and RJ and I huddle about what to do - we're not really super tight with this kid, and we're more than sketched out by the whole thing (and when RJ is sketched, well, that's a thing.) But we can't just leave him alone at the hospital. Can we? I have class first thing in the morning, RJ has work, we really don't want to be here.

Which is when the girl takes a look around and says with a big smile - "This where I got my tonsils taken out!"

Great. Now please go back to the kid's table. The adults are talking.

We ended up sleeping at the hospital and Travis went home never to be seen again by me.
I'm pretty sure that girl showed up at my house a lot after that to buy coke off one of my roommates.

I hate New Mexico.

Monday, November 24, 2008

And If So, In What?

Belief is a funny thing. It can be easy to feel, easy to express, and next to impossible to explain. It's like most relationships and certain kinds of ropes and cords - incredibly firm, strong, dependable to carry a weight up to a certain number of tons - but cut the right way, it unravels completely.

During my first year at Maryland I became friends with a guy named Jarl (yeah, like Carl with a "J" - I don't know why either). Jarl was a lifeguard at the JCC and became a regular at the Poker Nights which have now turned into burger nights. Jarl was also very different from most of my other friends, especially at the time - a deeply religious Christian who actually listened to and enjoyed Christian rock; an outdoor enthusiast who's idea of relaxation was four days in the woods without a shower; and an old school sensibility where he would get genuinely offended by curse words but not always the ethnic jokes. To put things in perspective, when he asked to pass out at my place one night I said, "Sure, but I just have a blanket and pillow, no extra mattress - that okay?"
And he replied in stone serious tones - "I've slept in standing water before. I'll be fine."

So a nice guy, but an odd fit.

Which can be good, to get a new perspective.
Except for that night he slept over.

We're at the point in the night when the conversation is naturally starting to wind down - the pauses are getting longer, we're both tired, my ability to distinguish between dream and reality is starting to give way - when suddenly Jarl askes "Jason, what do you believe in?"

Well, that's a hell of a question. And I'm not sure this is the best guy to have it with - knowing my thoughts and knowing his - he's got the faith and I don't. It's 2 am and I have work in the morning - I don't have time for the four hour spiritual debate.

So I say "I believe in love, Jarl."

He gets real pissed for a second and sort of barks out "I'm not joking."

"I'm serious. I believe in love. I can't see it, I can't prove it exists, but I believe in it."

There's a nice long pause and I'm ready to add 'bullet dodging' to the "Special Skills" section of my resume when suddenly -
"Why don't you believe in God?"

Oh, fuck.
I don't want to have this conversation at all. But Jarl's a nice guy and I don't want to just ignore him, so I need to think of something I can say that'll answer the question decisively and without provocation so I can get back to the important task of falling asleep.

"Well, Jarl - there are so many religions each with their own God, and I think part of what each of them believe must be right, or why else would they believe it - so I don't want to commit to one until I'm totally sure that it's right. Okay?"

Silence.
Fantastic.

I'm this close to what I'm sure would have been the dream of a lifetime when -
"Why don't you believe in the Christian God?"

You have got to be fucking kidding me.

"Because I'm JEWISH Jarl. I was born Jewish. If I was going to believe in any God, it would be the Jewish god and if I don't believe in that then I'm not jumping over to Jesus anytime soon!"

I was not pleased and finally just ended it. Because seriously? No. It's 2AM, I have work in the morning, you're a douchebag okay? Don't sleep on my floor and try to convert me. Ok? Just don't.

But here's the thing...
I was being totally serious to Jarl. I did believe in love. That perfect true love, where every morning you could wake up next to the same person and still be mesmerised by their face, just as stunned as the day before. Not a love without work, or compromise, or sacrifice - but one that embaced all of the above, without boundaries or limits as long as two people were willing. This was the core of my morality, the core of my person - my faith. My religion. I spent years truly believing that love was the single most powerful force in the world and if two people really loved each other, really, everything else was complications or excuses. Distance, life plans, etc. - utterly surmountable by anyone who really wanted to. And those were the excuses if you didn't want it bad enough.

I believed in Love with all my heart, and built my dreams and my desires around it.

But faith is a funny thing.
Everyone has the moment where their faith is tested, or shattered. And it's different for everyone, based on your core. For some people it's the death of a loved one and the realization of mortality. For some people it's questioning the existence of God for the first time. For some people it's seeing their parents cry, and realizing that they're just people too.

Well - God has never been more than a character in a story to me, and a childish and petulant one at that. I've known my parents to be human beings, with all the good and bad that comes with, for a long time.

I had my moment in a relationship. And that may seem simple, or sad, or silly to some of you - but to me it was like realizing there is no God. Because it's not about the break up - it's about the loss of love.

I meant it when I said "you are the love of my life." And when I said it I never intended to say it to anyone else. I had no doubts. And that's maybe the most important sentence I am capable of saying.

But now they're not.
It was real and it wasn't strong enough.
Or it wasn't real and I don't know the difference. Except I truly believe I do.

So either I was wrong, or that's that. Game over, glad you played - that was your shot.
One choice is utterly depressing, the other requires a total re-evaluation of basic truths I've always known. A worldview. A belief that has defined me as long as I've known how to define and that is crumbling to a cynicism I despise. I know it's really not that simple, there are shades of gray - this doesn't have to be black and white.

But if you've wondered why I haven't seemed as happy in the past few months - if you're one of the people who have been asking where the 'old' Jason went - "you were more jovial before" - That's why.

This is my crisis of faith.
I'm not sure what I believe in any more.

Belief is a funny thing. It can be easy to feel, easy to express, and next to impossible to explain. It's like most relationships and certain kinds of ropes and cords - incredibly firm, strong, dependable to carry a weight up to a certain number of tons - but cut the right way, it unravels.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sports Night . . .

Thanks to Adam for the reminder, as Sports Night is being reissued again. (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/23/arts/television/23sand.html?_r=1&ref=homevideo)

I could go on and on for a while about this show, and it's relations to Aaron Sorkin's other work, and it's failings, and it would probably be a rehash of a number of conversations I have had with Jason, but I'll just enumerate a few random thoughts. (If you want a synopsis, wiki it.)

* The show had one of the worst soundtracks and one of the most painful laugh tracks of any TV show that I have ever watched. The laugh track has been discussed to death over the years, since the network essentially forced it on Sorkin, but it remains quite jarring to hear it after not watching the show in a long time. The soundtrack though, by "Snuffy" Smith or whatever his name is, is one of the worst uses of the electric guitar in the history of recorded sound. It's quite bad. And yet he's done the soundtrack for West Wing (grand but tasteful) and Friday Night Lights (I know they use Explosions in the Sky for much of their music, but points to him for his contributions not being distractingly, stylistic different from EITS's work). The mark of good art is "Show Don't Tell" and in this case his music was the Anti-Wire (yes, I just compared a TV soundtrack to a TV show). Instead of letting viewers have an opinion, they were beaten over the head about what to feel.

* I really like the second half of the second season and I think this is a divisive point. To not give away too much, most of the characters in the show settled into a very comfy stasis pretty early on in the show, and only really when Sorkin ditched the show to start working on West Wing did the characters start becoming untethered. And although things sort of rehardened back to normal toward the very end, I still think this bit of spice made this part of the series the most enjoyable.

* Things that seemed fresh in Sports Night lose a bit each time around. It's fun to imagine how much the reshuffling of art would have an effect on it's commercial failure or success (I could and perhaps will rant about what would/could have happened had Trent Reznor just put out something like The Slip or With Teeth in 1998 or so). What if Studio 60 had come first, would it have made it longer, would Sports Night then seem like a retreat? I don't think Studio 60 was a bad show, but certain things that were done in Sports Night and West Wing were recycled or mutated or shoehorned into Studio 60, and they tend to lose the emotional impact the umpteenth time around.

Friday, November 21, 2008

An Open Letter to the Company that Just Rejected Me

To Whom it May Concern-

Well, you've done it. I didn't think you'd figure me out, but you've caused me to carefully reconsider the next time I try to pull the wool over someone's eyes. Yes, it's true, I am the stupidest person on the planet, and you, being the expert interviewer that you are, realized it immediately, and justly denied me employment with your company. Nice work.

It's true, I am a complete moron, the dumbest of the dumb, the literal king of stupid. There's no way I could have handled a job that required 20 hours a week of my time, and called for such nearly impossible duties as "order the company more coffee," or "stuff and mail these envelopes." Surely, such activity would have only ended with me huddled in a corner on the floor slapping myself in the face, or jumping up and down on my desk, while screaming, "Daddy, the poop is here." For after all, I am the stupidest man alive.

I know. My resume made it through your screening process. But I do not blame you for this. I have cushioned it with such powerful sounding jobs as "Second City Box Office worker" and "Jewish Camp Song Leader." When you saw these past employments, you must have thought, "Clearly, this is a serious worker, and one we must interview." But when we first met, that's when it all came undone. I shook your hand, smiled, and said that yes, I was very interested in the position. I lied as I told you my past experience would most definitely qualify me for the job. But you, brave interviewer, saw right through it to the monster I was. With each word that fell out of my mouth, you saw me for what I truly was, a complete doofus for whom a simple and menial task like "order these papers" could only result in urine, tears, and the fateful end of the office kitchen.

In closing, all I can really do is repeat just how impressed I am that you were able to weed me out, when I put on so cunning a display for you. You are truly good at your job, and I now know for certain your company will only continue to prosper. Now, if you will kindly excuse me, it's time for me to spread butter all over my face and burn off my pubes with hot lava. Good day!

Yours,
Daniel Strauss

How Long Do You Back A Bum Horse?

Something I've been pondering lately is how long to stick around with a band who has lost some of the qualities that drew you to them in the first place. I think you can go through similar feelings with an author, or a television show, and certainly with a sports team (which Bill Simmons has discussed quite a bit on espn.com) and I may discuss those later on. A few of bands come to mind for this.

After buying Guerrilla at the old Kemp Mill Music in City Place, I have been disappointed by every Super Furry Animals album that has come after it. Mwng wasn't bad, but had some cringeworthy moments that evoked what I imagine Welsh soft-rock might sound like. Rings Around the World had a lot of great songs, but had some painfully dull attempts at country. To add insult to injury, some of these were played live. Both of these albums were saved a bit by bonus discs with some excellent tunes.

Then things went really downhill. Phantom Power was a mess and I literally only got four tracks into a review copy of Love Craft. And yet, I haven't fully given up, mainly because leadsinger Gruff Rhys (love those Welsh names) has put out two charming, low key solo albums and a wonderful '80s throw-back concept album about John DeLorean with Boom Bip as Neon Neon. So it's hard to give up, when you know there's still potential there. SFA's last album Hey Venus! wasn't bad, although not great either. There may still be a bit of hope.

Then there's Weezer. The decline is pretty straighforward - two amazing albums, two decent albums, and then the band started circling the drain. At this point, despite the interesting if uneventful Alone albums put out by Rivers, the quality filter for the band has vanished. They've gone past the point of no return. A handful of decent songs on an album won't cut it. I don't see myself ever buying another Weezer album.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Do You Believe?

You can't see it, but you know its there.

Every year in Montgomery County (and maybe all or most of Maryland) we have high school "Physics Day." Once a year all the students taking physics get to blow off classes and go to a school sponsored field trip to Six Flags to see the application of physics in action. It's not all fun and games - there's a worksheet to fill out on the rides in order to prove you actually learned something.

Unless you were me. Or one of 13 other students. Because in JDS, we had a total class size of about 88 - and in eleventh grade we had the choice of what kind of science to take. So while all those other suckers were slaving over equations, Elan and I chose to be the only guys in our grade to take Genetics, along with 12 of the girls. Given that everyone else was taking physics, they couldn't leave 14 of us at school all day. And so we got the free amusement park trip, and absolutely no work.

It was awesome.

I spent most of the day with Elan and his then-girlfriend Rachel (the same Rachel I slaughtered my ankle over in the now classic post An Assortment of Stupid Things That I Have Done). Except the two of them were uber lame and would wait by the side and cuddle or make cooey noises at each other while I road the rides.
To be fair, this was before I became a roller-coaster fiend, so maybe I was a little lame too. But not likely.

I was getting on "The Riddler's Revenge" which is a ride where you stand straight up against a wall of a big circle. There's a safety latch about a foot in front of you, but no real way to strap yourself in, and plenty of room to move around. Then the circle starts to spin and you're pushed to the wall by the force. Then the circle starts to rotate up until you're facing the ground with nothing but physics keeping you safe.

I get on the ride and we're all waiting when one of the other students quiets everyone down without saying a word. He's a tall black kid with long dreadlocks, a top hat, and a cape.
And as the ride starts to spin he calls out to the riders in a voice an evangelist would envy
"Do you BELIEVE in centrifugal force?"

And every one of us shouted back "I BELIEVE in centrifugal force!"

I believe.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Breath of Fresh Ayers

Remember that really shady relationship President-elect Barack Obama had with some former terrorist dude who was apparently a really dangerous badass back in the day?

Well his name is Bill Ayers, and I had the opportunity to hear him speak at an event hosted by Bus Boys and Poets on Monday evening.

"When we scheduled this 6 months ago," Bill Ayers says to the crowd, "I expected a kind of 10 person round table discussion. Obviously that's not possible now."

6 months ago, Bill Ayers was a mostly forgotten piece of history. Today, he's a name infamously linked with Obama. I'll be honest, there's no way I'd have gone to this event before he became famous, again, during this recent campaign season. I also knew though going in that he was there not to talk about Obama, or the 1960's. Really he was there to discuss his true passion: education reform.

He did address his political action in the 60's (no one died) and did address his relationship with Obama (they shook hands once), so that was kinda cool. But this un-intimidating, un-aggressive man going on 64 years didn't at all seem like the threatening personality he was made out to be on national cable television. He sounded hurt that he had been demonized, and proud that people voted against the 'guilty-by-association' attacks in regards to Obama.

He was though lively and passionate in his discussion of education reform. Ayers was a teacher before he was a radical, and he became a teacher afterward. Living and working in Chicago, Ayers has been pushing for what he calls a more true democracy in public schools. For one of my friends who accompanied me - Darby, a history/education student who's in a social justice class right now - these concepts were not new. But for me they were. And Ayers used colorful personal real-life examples of democracy at work in the classroom.

Follow the stream of thought that is Ayers: The idea that it's better to let kids discover the world for themselves, and learn to think for themselves, and discover their own identity and the idea that the teacher is not automatically the authority and that teachers can learn from students and that students can learn from each other and breaking down the 'i give you info, you memorize it' formula without talking about answering questions that people have and having a true discussion, and teaching from that plane, and the idea that, well, if the communists, fascists, and monarchies all had an education system encourages discipline, learning, being on time, respecting elders, and not doing drugs, then how was our education in democracy any different? It must be different somehow right? Well it's that encouragement for people to think for themselves that sets education in a democracy apart from education in other forms of government.

Really, nothing too radical. It's just not what we practice.

Ayers is a teacher-turned political radical-turned teacher. During that radical period, he was part of the famous New Left movement and part of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), highlighted by a sub-group called the Weathermen, of which Ayers was a sort of leader. Somewhere between then and now, he tried to blow up the Pentagon, among other major government buildings. He's a huge fan of democracy, but not a huge fan of the way the government is run.

Today, he focuses that frustration into promoting true democracy in education. It's probably a more effective and appreciated form of reform, as opposed to trying to reform the shape of the Pentagon (which remains 5-sided... I think).

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Don't Listen

David and I work as event technicians for the JCC in Rockville. Among other assorted duties, it means we run lights, sound, projections, and generally babysit the theatre during programs. Sometimes this can be incredibly busy if there are a lot of light and sound cues to run. Sometimes it can be really interesting - like in the case of a recent talk by Jeff Zaslow about Randy Pausch, an incredibly inspiring former professor who passed away from pancreatic cancer after touching the nation by giving what would literally be his Last Lecture.

However sometimes the experience is a mind numbing, thought paralyzing experience in tedious boredom no human should ever have to endure without access to Wikipedia. And it was during one such trial of our spirit that we noticed that the reel to reel player mounted on the booth sound rack looks EXACTLY like an evil robotic frog muppet face. We named him Kermecha Insidio.

And now, during programs, he talks to us. He tells us to do things. During these horrible programs, he is the voice in our ears. His eyes stare into our soul. He tells us we need to stop them at all costs, by any means necessary. During the Jewish Historical Society meeting, as we listened to the first update of the group's bylaws since the early 1980s, it was hard to argue with anything Kermecha said. He had so many valid points about how this just. had. to. end.

But so far we've been strong. We've made it through without incident. Kermecha Insidio is the voice in our heads that we have to ignore, because as good as it may feel, it would cause great harm in the long run.

Which reminds me of the time I listened to that voice.

In senior year of high school I found out from a friend that there was a girl that was pretty into me. Unfortunately, I didn't feel the same way. I just was really not into this girl in that way at all. But she was a friend, and I've been in her place WAY too many times that I had no interest in making someone feel like I had felt so many times before. So I managed to avoid the situation altogether in classic Schlafstein fashion - by being completely oblivious to everything she did or said. I used to be really good at pretending not to know things I did, a skill which has lessened over time after learning so much more and watching people hurt each other for years. But in my heyday, I was the KING of just not knowing quite what was going on. She'd say something obviously flirtatious, and I took it completelly literally. I was as dense as a brick. And equilibrium was maintained.

Until the cast party for Les Miserables. It started innocently enough - paper plate awards, massive amounts of chips, more soda than should be legal. But then there was a very public hookup between two people who had no business ever locking lips, much less around other people, and suddenly the floodgates were open. It was makeout city. And this was new to me. We're not talking about head in the doorway, sex on the floor - but there was a lot of making out. And coming from a group of friends more likely to hear the word "skank" and think of a dance and not a girl, this was a bit of a different scene than I was used to.

I had a small thing for a girl at the time my friend Ami nicknamed "The Infidel" because I'm Jewish, she was Muslim, and Ami has never really been one for social graces. I meandered through the couches filled with lapping tonguage and awkward onlookers, trying to find her - likely to have one of my trademark 'meaningful conversation.' But I was found first. By Ana.

Now Ana was very attractive, and at the time topped the list of people "I'd like to be friends with but aren't really." I'm not sure we had ever talked before. Out of her whole group, she was the one I knew the least. So it was a little wierd that she would stop me very deliberately in front of the basement door and say "Jason, you should come outside with me."

I looked out the window and saw the girl who liked me standing on the porch looking a mix of frustrated and nervous. I looked to my right and saw tonguefest 2003 continuing around me and I put 2 and 2 together pretty quick. Mama Schlaf didn't raise no fool.

So I kept up plan A) act like I have no idea what's going on. Hey, it's been working, why mess? So I said "oh cool, but I'm gonna go downstairs."

But Ana looked at me again, and looked outside and I could tell she knew exactly what I was pretending I didn't know - so she said "Jason, you should really come outside." I dropped the sherade and just said "I really don't want to."

That's when Ana held my hand - did I mention she was really pretty? - looked me straight in the eyes and said in that way "I really want you to come outside with me."

and a little voice inside my head said "maybe you'll get with both of them."

I had never heard that voice before, and I have never heard it again. But that night, I did. And I went outside. What I couldn't see from inside, blocked by the wall? My friend Mitch, also standing on the porch. I walk outside and see him and realize immediately - it was a setup. A trade. A you get one and I'll get the other. As soon as we step out into the open air Ana runs to Mitch, encircles him with her body, and proceeds to engage in what can only be described as epic passion. Mitch has just enought time to give me a big thumbs up over her head before he is totally enveloped.

That's when I turn around and see the other girl coming straight at my face.

I'm in a dilemma - on the one hand, I really don't want to do this. On the other, more people have shown up and I don't want to push this girl off of me in front them and really embarass her. Turns out fear and confusion is a pretty good motivator, as it was one of the better kisses I'd given to that point.

When it was done she just said "damn."
I just said "I have to go." and wandered back into the hormone fest, searching for The Infidel, as we all are, I'm sure.

Ana apologized later that night, which she really didn't have to do because she had done nothing wrong, but I had proof she was in fact using her feminine wiles to seduce me outside.

It's one of the few times I ever made out with someone I didn't really like that way, and in the scheme of things it's wholly unimportant. But I care about stuff like that, only being with people I really WANT to and who really want to be with me. And in that way, it's a mark on my record of me not holding up to my own code of conduct.
And it never would have happened if I hadn't listened to the voice I now know to be Kermecha Insidio.

Damn you Kermecha. Damn you to robot muppet hell.

As a coda to the story, Mitch had about the best weekend ever. He had hooked up with the girl I was into either earlier that day or the day before. There was being ambushed by Ana (they were on their way to the basement, and I presume a closet, when she stopped to talk to me again). And later that night he stopped by another girl's house - who he started dating that very night, and they were together the solid part of a year.
So whatever voice he's got, listen to that.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Bit of Belated Suday Reading

From time to time I think it's worth mentioning some amusing things I read in twin bastions of dead trees - The Washington Post and The New York Times Sunday editions.

Also, I know I'm just a living embodiment of Stuff White People Like. But I generally go for Week in Review before the Magazine, so there.

A Book Review on a Book on the Great Books. All the dead white male a boy or girl could ever want:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/16/books/review/Campbell-t.html?ref=books
And you may be familiar with St. Johns, the University whose curriculum is composed of The Great Books for all students:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._John%27s_College,_U.S.

What to do with a dead Big Box store:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/11/13/AR2008111303039.html

And Mr. Kristof, the anti-Maureen Dowd, with a bit of hope:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/16/opinion/16kristof.html

The Greatest Guy I Know

My life has been one largely devoid of positive male role models. Fortunately, I intuitively have always had the presence of mind to realize that their actions were not to be mimicked. Perhaps for this reason, I often look to fictional characters to provide my moral compass. Of all the great men in made-up history that I have dedicated my life to emulating, one stands above all others.

His name is Jefferson Smith, junior Senator of an unknown state. He was played by Jimmy Stewart in Frank Capra's "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington."

The movie is nearly 70 years old at the time of this writing. It was one of Capra's moodier films, depicting not the good of the common man, but rather the struggle of a single individual. In Mr. Smith, Jefferson Smith is a man with an unshakable belief in his country, and, more importantly, in the truth.

For those of you whom have not seen the 1939 classic, I will provide a synopsis. A Senator from an unnamed state in the union dies at the beginning of the film, news we are given from the state's governor. This is bad news, for it is on the eve of the Senate's vote on a deficiency bill meant to bolster public works throughout the country. Hidden in the lengthy bill, however, is a plan to build a dam in the state on land secretly owned by media mogul James Taylor (Edward Arnold), whom has the governor and several other government officials in his back pocket. Taylor orders the governor (Guy Kibbee) to appoint a political stooge to take up the empty office. The governor's constituents, however, demand a liberal reformer be given the post. The governor's own sons insist he has to appoint Jefferson Smith, the leader of the state's Boy Rangers and a local hero. Conflicted, the governor flips a coin. It lands on its side, propped up against a newspaper next to an article about Smith. The governor makes his decision.

Convincing Taylor that Smith is an ideal decision, the governor goes forward with the plan. He sells Smith as young and naive, too inept to possibly ask any questions that could prevent their scheme from moving forward. Taylor is ultimately swayed by the opinion of another Senator, Joseph Paine (Claude Rains). Paine is held in highest esteem in the Senate, and is also Taylor's most powerful crony. Unbeknownst to Paine, Smith is the son of his dearest friend, a journalist whom was killed for attempting to break up a corrupt mining syndicate. A conversation between Smith and Paine on their train ride to D.C. reveals that Smith reveres Paine, knowing only the stories of the lost-cause championing lawyer that his father told him about.

Once in D.C., the wide-eyed Smith wanders away from his handlers and takes a bus tour of the city. Overwhelmed by the monuments and history, he spends hours missing, simply taking in the sites of the country he loves. When he finally makes his way to his office, he meets his wise-to-the-world secretary, Clarissa Saunders (Jean Arthur), and her friend, the reporter Diz (Thomas Mitchell). Saunders believes Smith to be little more than a high-speaking con man, and can't believe anyone would be taken in by his professed patriotism. She arranges a press conference to humiliate Smith, which succeeds when the press takes his every word out of context. The papers they print are a scandal in the Senate, and when he sees what came of his interviews, Smith tracks down every reporter he can find and punches them square in the face.

He eventually tracks one to a reporter's lounge, where he is overwhelmed by the other journalists and forced to sit down. There, Diz confronts him with the facts; the stories they told about him being inept and an embarassment were true. He's there as a chair ornament, to sit down and shut up and vote whichever way Joseph Paine tells him to vote. Dejected, Smith slinks away, finding his way to Senator Paine's office and expressing what he's just learned. Paine, seeking to distract Smith from trying to learn anything about the going-ons around him, suggests that Smith write a bill. The idea invigorates Smith, who immediately rushes back to his office to find Saunders and put idea to paper. As he describes his plan for a national boys club where boys from all over the country can come together and learn about nature, respecting others, and love for America, Saunders realizes he's more than just talk. She also realizes that the location he's suggesting for the boys club falls square over the plot of land Taylor and Paine are planning to use for their dam-building scheme. She remains silent on the issue, and continues to draft Smith's bill.

On the Senate floor, Smith proposes his bill. The idea is applauded by the Senate, but Paine is aghast when Smith mentions where the boys club would be built. He immediately goes to Taylor, who flies out to Washington the next day. In the meantime, Paine uses his own beautiful daughter Susan (Astrid Allwyn) to take Smith out for the day so he won't be on the Senate floor when the deficiency bill is read. Saunders, now conflicted between her growing affection for Smith and her need to look out for herself, gets drunk, then confronts Smith with the insanity of trying to do good in the Senate in the face of such wholesale corruption. She quits, leaving with a suitcase full of her belongings and Diz, claiming she'll do a lot for a dollar, but she won't be party to murder. Saunders knows that is exactly the response to Smith that Taylor has in mind; character assassination.

Smith goes to Paine with what Saunders revealed to him, and Paine confesses to being Taylor's man. He admits he worked in Taylor's interests for the last twenty years, but in that time he was able to to help his state in thousands of legitimate, honest ways, giving it the lowest unemployment and highest government grants. He tells Smith he's been living in a boy's world, and he should go back there, that he's unprepared for how the world really works. Smith refuses to compromise his morals, and soon finds himself face-to-face with Taylor himself. Taylor offers Smith the world if he plays ball; high appointments in business, a guaranteed re-election into the Senate, anything he wants. Smith again refuses. Taylor tells Paine to get rid of the boy, but Paine balks at the idea of destroying the son of his best friend. The media mogul reminds Paine just how much he has over the Senator, and Paine capitulates.

What follows in the conclusion of the film is a sequence of events I hate to ruin. There are some who still haven't seen the 70-year-old film, and to reveal the climax would be to take away from the experience. I've explained enough of the action to resume my original point.

Jefferson Smith was Capra's greatest hero. One man against a massive, corrupt political machine who stood his ground and refused to compromise. He knew the difference between right and wrong, and even moreso, between right and easy. He was a man who would not be discouraged, would not stop believing in the American way, and would not back down against impossible odds. Jefferson Smith is, in many ways, the ideal man. He is my role model, and to live a life like Smith is a goal I find worth working towards.

Thus, it was surprising and affirming to find that Jefferson Smith was alive and well, and an actual person.

I do know a person who refuses to compromise his morals. I know a man who would not back off against his personal ideals and what he knows is right, even in the face of intense pressure from his peers and society. I know someone that loves his state and his country, cherishes his friends, and honors the truth. I know a person that I strive to be like, and whose personal philosophy I believe all Americans, and all people everywhere, could benefit from subscribing to. I found my Jefferson Smith.

His name is Jason Schlafstein, and he's the greatest guy I know. And I sincerely hope he watches the movie I described, because I'm sure he'll find, as I did, that it was Frank Capra basing a character off of a man who wouldn't be born for another 47 years.

Here's to you, Jeff. May we all be more like you, and the world be a better place for it.



To check out more of David Pratt, go to http://prattforpresident.blogspot.com

An Assortment of Stupid Things That I Have Done

This post is in honor of last night - when, in a spurt of something, I attempted to recapture my feelings of youth and freedom by leapfrogging a security baten and instead fell hard on my left arm, which is now possibly broken. As I wait for my dear friend Christ Holst to wake up from his night of Redskin loss induced drinking in order to ask him to drive me to the doctor, which I'm not actually sure I can do on my own, I have no choice but to sit here and reflect on other foolish choices I have made throughout my life, often seeming like fantastic ideas at the time, and often involving me trying to jump over things at great heights to achieve goals that can in NO WAY actually be achieved by jumping over things at great heights. I have no idea why in my head I translate this particular skill as the barometer of all the good I can achieve, but apparently I really like jumping over shit.

I can also take a moment to say Ha! I never learned how to type with two hands - so while I may look absolutely insane sitting at a computer rocking back and forth muttering to myself while I slam on each individual key with a hunt and peck speed that defies the expectations of anyone who took the time to actually use PAWS in the third grade computer lab, I can still write even with one hand utterly immobilized by shooting, searing pain. Take that computer culture!

There was the time in High School when I was running on the sidewalk to meet Ari Levin for a Weezer concert. I happened to look across the parking lot to see Rachel Pasternak, the girl I had a crush on at the time, standing a ways in the distance. I don't think she was even looking at me but suddenly, I knew. If I could jump over the rapidly approaching bike rack, I would be the coolest kid alive and she would love me forever. It seemed so simple at the time. And so I went for it, passion driving my every move as I launched breathlessly into the air to score my surely soon to be beloved.

And then my foot caught the steel rail and I tumbled back to the earth where, as I watched my dreams die, my ankle snapped on impact with my foot tilting inwards towards my body for a brief moment creating a perfect 90 degree angle to my leg.
I don't think she even saw.

So I ran back to meet Ari and didn't even look at my leg until later that night at the show when we all had to sit on the floor before the opening band came on. After half an hour I could sit on the floor no more. I stood up to get sweet relief and was promptly berated by Patriot Center security. "I'm injured" I cried, and pulled up my jeans to prove it - seeing my tennis ball sized ankle for the first time.

I ended up not seeing a doctor for it, because I'm awesome, until I reaggravated the same injury a year later - and now it's a chronic reoccurance, most recently flaring up after a particularly intense jump rope session in movement class two years ago.
That's right, a particularly aggressive jump rope session.
Ye gods, but I am lame.

But for sheer, abject stupidity little can beat the time I decided to protest what I considered my parents' absolutely dictatorial regime by biking a mile in the snow in shorts. I was all set to go to my friend Seth's birthday party. Now the weather outside was terrible by any standard - high winds, freezing cold, and snow that was giving way to a massive hail storm. But Seth only lived like five minutes away. And I was wearing shorts. Sure, I'd be outside for a second on the way to the car, and again going into the house, and back out of the house and then going into my house - but that couldn't amount to more than 42 seconds of total cold time. Plus, I had a jacket! And rights.

But I was told in no uncertain terms that I had to change if I intended to attend this party. I refused, on the principal of the thing. I was going to be in a climate controlled house, I'll wear shorts if I damn well please. I was in high school, by god. And I'd wear what I wanted to wear - ride be damned!

As power struggles over utterly inane things often do, this quickly got out of hand. The yelling, recriminations, the forceful nature by which I demanded my rights as an American citizen, the clear cut way in which I had no driver's license or car of my own. The choice - face defeat, change out of my shorts and brave the cold in long pants and a car - or be me, man of righteous principal.

And so I ended up bike riding with two flat tires over a mile in a hail storm in a pair of shorts to a birthday party sparsely attended due to bad weather.

But for all the stupid, stupid things I've done, I can rest easy.
Because Elan once broke his hand punching a couch.

And I have never done that.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Rodham Redemption

As Hillary Rodham Clinton is now being considered for the position of Secretary of State for the Obama Administration, it's difficult not to see the great struggle that is Rodham's life. A win for the Presidency would have been the ultimate victory of course, but that loss paints an entirely different picture on her legacy.

Could this be her last shot at redemption?

Hillary's reputation doesn't necessarily hinge on this potential designation. But it might.

Impossible as it is to believe, the hawkish Hillary has transcended from a comedy of errors into a dynamic figure in American history. She had, for a brief moment in time, the chance to upstage her husband's legacy and become a true icon. The couple had scratched and clawed their way to the top of the political sphere when Bill won the presidency. After that was a series of public humiliation.

Hillary's universal health care plan dubbed "Hillarycare" was shot down and burned with great fury. Then the Monica Lewinsky thing happened. That was in 1998. You know the rest there.

A presidential win would have changed everything. She would have gone from being the most active First Lady since Eleanor Roosevelt, to becoming perhaps the most powerful woman in the world. Her universal health care plan would at long last be implemented, and the embarrassment of the Lewinsky days 10 years earlier would at long last be nothing but history.

In the end, Hillary specifically asked Obama to not even vet her for the VP position.

How will history judge Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton? If she attains the position of Secretary of State, the nation's highest diplomatic position, her legacy will surely be secured as perhaps the greatest female politician ever: a powerful political lawyer, a powerful First Lady of Arkansas, a powerful First Lady of the United States, a powerful Senator of New York, and (a powerful, to be sure) Secretary of State.

But another loss? No redemption for Rodham? Will she go down in the books as a winner or a loser in American history? Obama - your move.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Happy Birthday

There was this girl I used to hook up with in high school (there weren't many). We never actually dated, and it's something I've regretted on and off throughout my life, or at the very least looked back at. I don't regret it because I have any kind of feelings or longing for her, but mainly because I wonder how the experience would have changed me and my life - being more experienced, especially since it was more than a few years until I'd get the chance again. I wonder if I would have done a little better when it really mattered if she hadn't been my first.

I chose never to officially date her, even though we were in a pseudo-relationship for a little while. I like to think it was because I never really felt that way, which is a really good reason, but maybe I would have if I let myself. But I was scared, and refused to let go of feelings for another girl I'd never end up being with. In my head, if I was with someone else, I wouldn't be there ready and waiting for this other girl when she finally realized how utterly awesome her best friend was - and waiting for something that would never actually happen, I cut off at least this chance at something. It was a good three years I spent beholden to feelings I should have let go a long time before.

The first time we hung out I was in a fight with my parents, so I wasn't allowed to have anyone over. I took that extraordinarily literally cause I was a bit of a bastard and said that meant no one could come inside. Letter of the law. So we spent a few hours sitting in the cold on my porch, nervously talking and never going inside. I really hope she didn't have to use the bathroom. It wasn't until I came over to her house that we kissed the first time, to a mixtape she made me. It was the first time anyone had made me a mix, and it was an actual tape. A mix CD was the first thing I made the girl I fell in love with.

Her mom didn't like me for a long time, and I'm far from perfect, but I'm definitely polite and friendly so it took me a little bit off guard. Aside from the fact that I was making out with her only daughter on a relatively consistent basis, what wasn't to love? I found out later that I reminded her of her ex-husband, which was wierd on a few levels thinking about it now, and certainly nothing I could do anything about.

Still, one of the most scathing things anyone has ever said about me was when she asked the girl "Did Jason get you anything for your birthday other than his tongue?"
Awkward.
And I still feel guilty that no, I didn't.

It took three years to get over someone I was never with. How long and how many missed opportunities will it take to get over someone who loved me?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Keith Olbermann Speaks on Prop 8

I know Elan is planning on writing about Proposition 8, and I urge you all to come back and read that post once it's up sometime today or tomorrow. But in the meantime, Keith Olbermann says pretty much everything I have to say on the subject, likely better than I could.

I'd also like officially welcome my fellow Gentlemen - you've already read Max Nova and David Pratt - Adam Winer, Elan Strait, and Damien "Damo" Nichols will be joining us soon.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Adams v. O'Keeffe Deathmatch

Currently at SAAM (aka the Smithsonian American Art Museum aka that museum next to the Verizon Center aka my favorite midtown waystation whenever I'm meeting up with people) until the beginning of January is a dual exhibit of natural works by Ansel Adams and Georgia O'Keeffe, supposedly the first major exhibition showing their work side by side. It's a fantastic exhibit and there are too many highlights to count.

The real question is who wins the deathmatch? And I give the edge to Adams. It's never quite fair to pair painting with photography and in the 20th century photography has become the prime medium for depicting nature. But don't count O'Keeffe out so easily. When it comes to her bright blasts of color and those works that toe the line between abstraction and representation (and not just her flowers that look like . . . other things) she more than holds her own. And in one domain, desert landscapes, O'Keeffe dominates. Her depictions of the stone churches in those washes of brown and tan are stunning, and of course there are the bright bright white skulls. But take her out of the desert and Adams take charge. One particular high point is when Adams captures a wash of foam on water that looks as if nature has created a van Gogh. And, as lovely as O'Keeffe's mountains are, Adams' picture of a mountain perfectly reflected on the water is awe-inspiring.

This is the kind of blockbuster exhibit SAAM was meant for, and it doesn't disappoint.

We Picked the Wrong President

Our country faces two simultaneous wars. Our economy is plummeting. Deep divisions spread over moral and ethical grounds fracture our nation. In the search for a leader of sound mind and body to guide us, the American people chose poorly. We should not have elected the President we did. We should have elected John McCain.

Instead, we put George W. Bush in office.

In 2000, Republicans across the country had a chance to make a difference. In the Republican primaries, John McCain ran against George Bush, and was lost in the shuffle, just as he almost was in 2008. Had the party been more aware of the times we were to face, and the sheer enormity of the choice they were making, I like to think they would have put the better man in office. While I can't pretend to know how McCain would have reacted to the crises which plagued our nation in the last 8 years, I can at least state with certainty based upon the man's record that he would not have created as many of his own as were perpetrated by the current administration.

It may be wrong to speak ill of George Bush. He proved himself a leader who spoke from the gut and shot from the hip. He was never as dumb as he appeared, nor was he the nice guy you could have a beer with that he wanted you to believe. He was a President with a set of guiding moral values and a sense of what was right for America which he refused to abandon. While he made many wrong moves, let us not forget that he made them because he honestly believed them to be good for the country. When Obama was elected by landslide, Bush had no harsh words for the party which had painted him so negatively over the years or its candidate. Instead, he promised a smooth transition to power, and applauded America for overcoming such a hurdle in our history as to finally put a black man in office. George Bush was not many of the things he thought he was, but a simple look at his cabinet and his work in Africa will show that Kanye West has completely the wrong idea about the man.

But among those things he is not is the leader that was right for our times. Should we villify anyone in the years to come, I hope it is Dick Cheney and Karl Rove. Their tactics of dividing the nation on moral lines caused a wave of hatred to sweep over this country. Spreading misinformation and encouraging ignorance were their way of winning votes. The right to disagree with your government, a foundation upon which America was built, became unpatriotic. George Bush was not the leader for our times, but the men behind him were not right for this country or this world.

We would have done better with John McCain. Now, his time has passed.

Let's hope we did it right this time around.

Monday, November 10, 2008

I Was So Much Older Then

About 4 years ago, maybe 5, I was hanging out with one of my best friends - David, who's going to be writing for this site. It was one of the first times we'd ever actually hung out, and it's my first real memory of us outside of him inviting our acting teacher to a toga party on the first day of class (she didn't go, and he's still waiting).

We were standing outside the Student Union when he got a call from Claire - who was either his girlfriend at the time, his recent ex, or somewhere in the middle, which was kind of the problem. During that extraordinarilly long phone call I chilled with Kermit the Frog, who has a statue dedicated to him along with UMD's most famous alumnus, the incomparable Jim Henson. This was a long phone call and when he was done he was pretty shaken up, so at lunch he told me the story of him and Claire. I don't remember all the details (David and I have had a lot of talks about a lot of girls in the years since) but I do remember stopping him 5 or 10 minutes into talking and saying something to the effect of "I'm happy to keep listening, and I definitely will, but I just wanted to let you know that in the 10 minutes since you've started talking you've already broken up three times - and I think that's your answer right there." And I guess that stuck with him.

Because I had pretty much forgotten about the entire conversation until he brought it up a few months ago. I have a girl in my life now, or to be more accurate I don't, where if I say "when we broke up" the best response is "which time." So David gave my own words back to me, some four years later. And even though it was so obvious in the moment, I almost can't imagine saying that. Because it seems so much simpler then than it does now.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

You'll Never Live Here Again

Good evening. It's lovely to be writing again.

Two weeks ago on vacation in London I found my way into the Arsenal/Tottenham derby after wandering back and forth a bit looking for a ticket tout. Among the many clever and profane cheers I heard during the game (including "There's only one Tony Adams" which in retrospect was particularly clever) was "You'll Never Play Here Again," a cheer directed at soon to be relegated teams. Given Tottenham's recent form the cheer was a bit premature. But it's still quite a biting chant.

Last week, after the election, in a bit of fortuitousness that was less planned, I found myself outside the White House, and the cheer came into my head again in a slighly different form, "You'll Never Live Here Again." I shouted it out for good measure, but people were already begining to disassociate with the last eight years.

We are but Gentlemen

Welcome to the home of The Gentlemen - your one stop shop for reviews, commentary, and analysis on the worlds of Art, Entertainment, Politics, and Culture. Based out of the DC area, we're going to cover everything from the latest releases to the general trends in mediums as diverse as music to film, theater to comics, and the Capital - as well as slice of life essays from our own experience - and all with our unique touch of sarcasm and class.

Over the coming days and weeks our roster will be unveiled and fleshed out, a column schedule will be decided, and reviews will go up. We encourage posting, e-mails, and discussion.

If you have a copy of something you'd like read, watched, listened to and reviewed please e-mail me at jschlaf@gmail.com

We are but Gentlemen, and we are here to entertain you.